We finally left the dock and went sailing (mostly motor sailing) for the long holiday weekend to the Great Barrier Island. On Thursday afternoon, we left work and motored the long way up the river to Marsden Cove to anchor for the night so we would have a good start on the 60 mile trip. Gerry, a co-worker who used to live on the island, came along to show us around and make sure we caught fish. When he went down for a nap, Russ caught a fish for dinner on the line he had rigged up. On Friday, we anchored at the south-east part of the island at Medlands Beach. Gerry jumped off the boat with his surfboard to catch a few rides and then we BBQ's the fish for dinner. The anchorage and beach were beautiful but rolly, so Saturday afternoon, we decided to move the west side of the Island to Tryphena. Since we were in a more populated location, we were able to rent a car on Sunday and drive around to see more of the island (see photo gallery). Then Monday we started off at 3am to make it back before low tide in Whangarei and Tuesday it was back to work. Way too short!
We took a weekend trip to show Joel and Robin Auckland. On Saturday after a scenic drive down, we all indulged ourselves on Oriental food and going to see "Alice in Wonderland" in 3D at the IMAX theater. We also got to spend time with our friends, Stacy and John Stuart on Lightfoot, who joined us for drinks and eats and sailboat racing.
On Sunday morning, we lined up early for free tickets on a spectator boat for the final race of the Louis Vuitton series. The City Council of Auckland had lined up a luxurious sailing/motor cat for the 2 race weekends to allow the "average person" to enjoy some Louis Vuitton racing. They were able to accomodate 120 passengers for morning and afternoon cruises. The race we saw turned out to be the deciding race as Team New Zealand beat Mascalzone Latino Audi Team (Italy) for their 2nd win in the best of 3 finals. This is match racing at its finest and we were able to see it both on the big screen TV on the spectator boat and by looking out at the course. The parties at Viaduct harbor were starting even before the boats returned to the dock.
On our third trip to Russell, we finally found the "Welcome to Russell" sign as we drove by it and had to pull a u-turn to get the picture. We spent a pleasant weekend touring Northland by car with our house (boat) guests, Joel and Robin, who were visiting from Tonga. On Saturday we enjoyed the Kauri museum and on Sunday, we visited "romantic Russell". Our guests especially enjoyed the cool New Zealand weather.
02/06/2010, Whangarei, New Zealand
It is a long time since we sent an update and after a stressful passage, we have made it to New Zealand. We spend 5 days in Opua , checking in and getting organized. Found checking in easy and all officials were very professional and courteous. We arrived at the end of the All-Points-Rally to Opua so only got to go to their closing party. The next night we traveled by ferry to Russell to see the town and hear Bob McDavitt speak, (a New Zealand weather Guru) He was very knowledgeable and entertaining which was surprising since we have so much trouble making sense of his Weathergrams (we are working on the local vernacular). The next day we left for Whangarei (pronounced Fong- ga-ray) to get settled before Russ started work.
We are now in Whangarei tied to a dock in the Riverside Drive Marina. Russ has a job in a rig shop (they call it a factory in NZ) and Debbie is working in the office of the same business. We have bought a car and cell phone. Cruising has been great this year, but it is also great to be connected to the grid after a year of constant moving and being at anchor. We like Whangarei which a medium sized city (about 78,000) on the North Island of New Zealand. It is up a river 2 hours from the ocean, so we are here to stay for awhile, since leaving is a long way and can only be done when the tide is right. Since we now have a little car (Honda Civic) we are getting to see parts of the Northland by land trips. Debbie is trying to get used to driving on the wrong (left) side of road and all the round-a-bouts. (Russ grinds his teeth a lot these days.) There are great walking and hiking trails very close to where we are staying and it is so nice to be somewhere where the streets and trails are clean and well maintained.
New Zealanders really take their holidays seriously and all business close for the week between Christmas and New Years, so after working for the company for 3 weeks, Russ had a 10 day (paid) vacation. We spent Christmas in Whangarei, having a potluck dinner with our fellow cruisers in the marina. Dave cooked a leg of lamb on the BBQ and we all brought other dishes to share. It was about 75 degrees out and didn't get dark until 9:30, so Christmas dinner outdoors was very successful. A couple of days later we got in our car and started driving around Northland. The first stop was Hundertwasser's Kawakawa Toilets. Not that stopping for a toilet is such an unusual concept for Debbie, it was the first time she took pictures of the toilet in question. Next we visited the seaside town of Kerikeri which was one of the first places to be settled by Europeans in the early 19th century and is the site of New Zealand's two oldest buildings, the Kemp House and the Stone Store. We also toured Rewa's Village . This is a full-scale recreation of a pre-European Maori village which details traditional aspects of life including a marae, the chief's house, a cooking area, weapons, store, fishing canoe and hangi pit (ground oven). We spent the night camping (in a tent) at a bird sanctuary called Aroha Island (our first night off the boat in a long time). The next day we drove north to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman meets the Pacific Ocean. Great views.
We also visited a Kauri forest and saw the largest and second largest Kauri tree in New Zealand. The forests here are green and lush, with streams and waterfalls. New Zealanders will proudly tell you that it is safe to hike in the woods in NZ because they have no snakes and no dangerous animals. Outside of possums and rats, they virtually have no land mammals, but a wonderful collection of birds. So far, the only Kiwi we have seen was in captivity, but he was in a display set up to be as close to his natural habitat as possible. In the wild, Kiwis are nocturnal and shy of humans, so they are hard to spot. Hopefully we will get lucky before we leave but understand that many New Zealander live here there whole life and never see a Kiwi in the wild.
Since we are working, we are now only doing weekend trips and sightseeing. This is being alternated with the long list of boat projects, we need to complete before we leave here in the spring (NZ's fall). We did get to visit Auckland where we stayed with our cruising friends, the Stuarts, on their boat Lightfoot which is mooring on the Viaduct. They took on a great tour of the city's parks and downtown area and of course, eateries. We had brunch in the Sky Tower in a restaurant that rotates every hour and 10 minutes, giving a constant different view of the city. We watched the cable jumpers leap from the building and plummet to the ground where of course the cables are tightened as the reach the jump deck.
The last couple of weekends have been boat projects, but hopefully more sightseeing next week.
I realize it has been a long time since we sent a general update. Internet has been sketchy in many of the places we have visited, but hopefully this will get through. After our last update when our engine had been stolen, we returned to Papette to receive our starter part which was due on Monday. On Friday, it finally arrived and it took Russ longer to take out his tools, than to fix the starter. It is so nice to know the boat will start when you turn the key on the first try. After a few days of rowing, we broke down and pulled out the plastic for an outboard in Papette. It is a 6hp - 4 stoke Suzuki and sounds like a lawn mower, but not much was available that we could afford. It's fine for going to shore, but not for excursions if there is much wind or seas. We miss our Nissan. We finally left Papette on July 21 to visit some of the other Society Islands before our visas for French Polynesia expired. (90 days seemed so long when we checked in and so short by the end)
We sailed to Huahine, where we stayed for several nights at a beautiful anchorage where we walked and snorkeled. Then we moved to the village of Fare to provision (definition = grocery shopping that takes all day) before we continued to Tahaa. At Tahaa we did a pass snorkel at what is called the coral gardens and then spent several days waiting out a small front on a free mooring in Haamene Bay. After a brief stop in Raitea, we sailed to Bora Bora where we spent a great week at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. There we snorkeled with the sharks (blacktip and lemon) off a cruiser friend's dingy and Debbie actually got in the water with them (Russ didn't hesitate). On this same outing, we also had a close encounter with a humpback whale. We saw the whale from the water and rushed back to the dingy so we could get closer and get a better look. We motored to within about 12 feet of him, and then he turned around, looked at us and turned toward the dingy and came under it. He was curious about us. After he passed under us, he went down and then breached as he swam away. It was awesome. Also in Bora Bora, we visited the famous Bloody Mary's restaurant . Then we went snorkeling in the Bora Bora coral gardens, which is one of the best aquariums we have swam in. Also in Bora Bora, we met up with some old time Tahoe sailors, Eric and Emmy who are also cruising the south pacific this year. We had a good time sharing stories and catching up with them.
After checking out of French Polynesia in Bora Bora, it was a 4 night sail to Aitukaki in the Cook Islands. This is a beautiful, friendly island but the pass into the harbor is only 6ft at high tide so many boats cannot visit there. We draw only 4'3', so the pass wasn't a problem at high or almost high tide. The problem we had was that we arrived way too early so we dropped an anchor outside the pass and when it came time to retrieve it, it was stuck in the coral. We were in the company of 2 other boats, so we let them know we were stuck and they should go ahead (we were supposed to go first) in before the tide changed. It was blowing pretty good, so we did not want to launch our ding and try to get through the pass with our little outboard, so we opted to stay on the boat that evening. The next morning, one of our friend boats had blown onto the reef and we went into the harbor to help him re-anchor. While in the harbor we talked to one of the dive boats and thought they were going to meet us the next day and dive on the anchor. They were teaching a PADI course in the area of our boat, so that same day they just went down as part of their dive and moved our anchor from where it was stuck to another spot. When we offered to pay, they wouldn't accept money. Great island hospitality. We just loved Aitukaki, the locals were friendly and everyone spoke English. After 90 days of feeling very isolated since we don't speak French, it was great to be able to ask questions and read the signs. If you stood on a corner with a map in your hand, someone would come by and ask where you wanted to go and direct you. Stacy, from the S/V Lightfoot, and I experienced this many times on our morning jogs about the island. Aitukaki is also the kite boarding capital of the South Pacific and we went out with Joel from Paradise Bound to watch his crewmember kite board. It was very windy and the kite boarders were having a blast. That day we also did a snorkel to see the giant clams. The biggest clams were up to 30 inches across. We also rented motor scooters for $20NZ per day and explored the whole island.
After Aitukaki, we sailed for Palmerston which was a very rolly 2 night sail. Those who read sailing magazines may have heard of Palmerston as it has been written up many times by Cruising World, etc. Palmerston was really interesting but unfortunately the weather prohibited anything but a real short stay. We took a mooring ball outside the reef, since sailboats cannot pass through the reef into the lagoon. It was really rolly and we spent an uncomfortable night. Palmerston Island has a unique history. It was settled by Bob Marsters, a Lancashireman who settled there in 1862 with three Penrhyn Island wives. He fathered 26 children, divided the islands and reefs into sections for each of the three "families" and established strict rules regarding intermarriage. The original home was built using massive beams salvaged from shipwrecks and still stands today. It is now only used for storage. The three families still control the island and own all the land. They have put in moorings to help passing yachts visit. We approached the island and Simon (the head of one of the families) came out to meet us and tell us which mooring to use. He then came back a few hours later and brought the immigration officials to process our paperwork. He then brought us and another family traveling on the yacht Lightfoot to shore. His sister-in-law, Shirley, had a delicious lunch of fish and rice ready for us. His nephews then gave us a walking tour of the island and then we returned to Shirley and Edward's house for fresh coconuts, music and conversation. The supply ship only comes to this island 2 or 3 times a year, so they live on food they grow, eggs from free-range chickens, coconuts and supplies brought by passing yachts. The population of the island is 50 and of that number they have 22 students in their school with 3 teachers. They value education and the kids stay in school. Everyone speaks English and there is internet (we never tried it) and they love movies. Their drinking water is rainwater and the generator for the island runs from 6pm to midnight and for a few hours in the morning. After a rolly night, the next day we are picked up again and went to shore with supplies for the school. We were informed on the way into the village that they are in the middle of building a cookhouse for the mission house today so we will go there and have lunch with the villagers. When we get there, there is a wonderful spread of foods all cooked by the village women. We taste a bit of everything, not really sure what we are eating and it is all delicious. Then Russ and John, from Lightfoot, help the men build the cookhouse. Stacy and I, sat and talked to the elder village women. They have lived in Palmerston all their lives and are very interesting. There are children running around and playing. The women do not help at all with the construction and are relegated to the food and children. After they are done with the day's work and Russ looked at the sponsor family's radios, we return to very rolly boat and decide to leave.
It is then a 3 night sail to Niue, a tiny Pacific Island county, which I had never heard of before researching this trip. The Niue Yacht Club (we are now members) had moorings available to rent. Niue is a one island, independent nation with close ties to New Zealand. Most people speak English and they use New Zealand currency. There is no ATM, no pharmacy, very limited stores, but very friendly welcoming people and beautiful natural surroundings. When you call in by VHF to Niue on arrival, they take your yacht info and then say "welcome to Niue, I hope you enjoy your stay". After FP, it was so nice to hear welcoming words. We rented a van with the family from Lightfoot and drove around to explore the island. We visited several caves and chasms, all accessible by hiking over the coral. We also visited a Noni farm where they grow and process noni juice for export. It tastes awful, but claims to take care of many health problems. Niue is in the path of the migration of the humpback whales and they were in the anchorage right next to the boat the next morning. They are curious and will come very close. Unfortunately, a front with western winds was moving towards Nuie and after 2 nights we had to leave to get in front of it. Debbie is almost getting used to these night departures.
After a 2 night sail, we are now at Neiafu, Vavau, in the kingdom of Tonga. It just happens that we arrived on the first day of the 1st Annual Tonga's Regatta Vava'u and the place is really hopping. They call it a regatta, but it is 6 days of events which include one beer can style and one 4 hour race. We were going to do the Friday beer can, but it is raining and there is no wind, so we opted out. Tomorrow we will sail the Governor's Cup which is a race to another island, where we then will anchor overnight and attend a full-moon party. So far, it has been a fun event and we have caught up with several of our friends on other cruising boats. There have also been representatives here presenting information on New Zealand and today Russ has already been offered a job, for a rigging company.
When we sailed to Tonga, we crossed the international date line and are a day ahead of the US. It was strange sailing two nights and showing up 3 days later!?!? We have celebrated our 2nd new anniversary since leaving San Francisco on August 31st, 2007 with Diane, Mark and Patrick on the Windjammers race. We still miss you guys. Sometimes the days go slow, but the months go fast and 2 years has flown by. We will leave Tonga mid to late October for New Zealand where we will spend the southern pacific cyclone season. If anyone is up to a 1100+ mile crossing, please let us know and we could take 1 or possibly 2 crew. Might not be the easiest crossing, but we plan to wait for a good weather window.
Today is Bastille Day, July 14, and we are still in Papeete waiting for a package containing a part for our starter that was supposed to arrive yesterday. Since today is a holiday, there are no deliveries, so hopefully we will have it tomorrow. Last Thursday when our package was finally shipped and wasn't going to arrive until Monday, we decided we didn't want to spend another weekend in Papeete since the anchorage is crowded and noisy, so we left and went back to Isle Moorea about 13 miles away. We arrived Thursday afternoon in Cooks Bay, a scenic, tranquil spot, toured around the bay in our dingy, then visited another boat for cocktails and returned to Zephyra about 9pm. We tied the dingy alongside Zephyra and turned in for the night. The next morning, Debbie woke up and dressed to go for a walk, climbed into the cockpit with her water bottle in hand and there was no dingy along the boat. A quick look showed the lines were cut and the dingy and outboard gone. It is a strange feeling, like having your car stolen, but worse since you cannot even walk down the street to get help.
We radioed our friends on the other boat, who promptly brought over his dingy so we could go to shore and report the theft to the Gendarmerie (police). A young man whose English was much better than our French helped us and after a little going around about "the big boat and the little boat and the engine" figured out what had happened and completed the paperwork. We brought our friends back there dingy and spent the day hanging out on Zephyra since Russ was feeling sick anyway. The next morning, a fishing boat circled our boat and asked, "you Zephyra?" When we reply yes, he tells us the Gendarmerie has found our dingy and we should go see them. We asked if he knew if they found the engine and he didn't know. We borrowed our friends dingy again and went back to the Gendarmerie. The same young man is there and escorted us out to the beach to identify the dingy, which was ours minus the engine. Of course, those of you who have gotten our previous emails, know that the dingy is on its last leg and is being held together by adhesive (3M-5200) which Russ applies as each new area fails. The engine was 2 years old, a 9.8 4-stroke, that Russ got a promo deal on at Svendsen's while he worked there. It was about $1800.00, here they are twice that, or more.
Having the dingy back is much better than nothing and maybe I'll finally get some exercise rowing the damn thing. We also feel very stupid because all through Mexico and Latin America we raised the dingy at night to avoid this kind of thing from happening, but in French Polynesia we felt very safe. There is little crime as the population is not poor.
We found one guy in Moorea who had an engine for sale, but like everything else in French Polynesia, it cost twice what it was worth and he didn't want to sell it for what we offered. Everyone has been very sympathetic and helpful, both the local authorities and our fellow cruisers. Now that we are back in Papeete, we are keeping our eyes open for a used engine for sale. After our starter is fixed, we will continue on through French Polynesia to the Cook Islands, with or without an outboard. Not having one, does limit where we can anchor and what we can do.